As the whole world knows, my friend, Dr. George R. Tiller, was murdered on Sunday morning, May 31, 2009, while he was doing his regular Sunday activity, ushering in his Lutheran church in Wichita, Kan.
Like Tiller, I too am an abortion provider. Since I stopped doing later abortions, between 18 and 24 weeks, I have sent most of my patients seeking late second trimester abortion to Dr. Tiller's office. Some were women who faced a major threat to their life or health if they were to continue with what had been a wanted pregnancy. Or their wanted baby was diagnosed with a major anomaly incompatible with survival for more than a few days or years and only then, a life of suffering and incredible pain.
George took them when they were not able to pay for his services. He accepted patients for whom we sometimes had to give money to even make the trip. George's colleagues who knew of his deep religious faith, generosity, kindness and love called him St. George when we spoke among ourselves, though we knew it embarrassed him to hear himself addressed this way.
America's, and the world's, women have lost a champion in Dr. George R. Tiller. And Wichita and Kansas have embarrassed themselves by not protecting one of their brightest, bravest, kindest, and most generous and most faithful sons. And I have lost a friend and colleague.
George Tiller grew up in Wichita, the son of highly respected Wichita family practitioner, Dr. Jake Tiller. He served for a time after medical school in the U.S. Navy as a flight surgeon.
Soon after he and his wife, Jeanne, moved to California with the Navy, his parents, sister and her husband were killed in a small plane crash. George had expected to serve several years in the Navy, but was granted a hardship discharge to come home and deal with the loss of his family. His sister and her husband had a baby that George and Jeanne adopted and raised as their own.
George Tiller had intended to come home, take care of his parents' affairs, sell the practice and eventually train as a dermatologist.
However, it turned out his father's many patients in Wichita expected a different course for Dr. George Tiller. And George never was a man to disappoint and avoid what was expected of him. In fact, he always gave much more than expected.
Soon after taking over Dr. Jake Tiller's practice, George discovered that his father, driven by his conscience, had provided safe abortions for his patients even before the Kansas abortion laws were liberalized, years before Roe. v. Wade. And George, like his father, was driven by his conscience. Soon after Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973 he started to provide abortion care as part of his routine family practice, as did many thousands of physicians all over the country.
These were physicians who, like Dr. Jake Tiller, had seen the terrible consequences that accompanied “criminal abortions.” The vast majority of abortions done before Roe v. Wade were provided by untrained, often uncaring individuals whose patients frequently ended up desperately ill, sterile, or dead because of massive infection, hemorrhaging or terrible injuries to internal organs.
These “Doctors of Conscience” were primarily family physicians, ob-gyns and general surgeons who'd had to care for women after their back-alley abortions. They were also trained to take care of patients with incomplete abortions, infected abortions, inevitable abortions and all the problems associated with the large number of miscarriages that occur every year in our country. Remembering what they had seen, as soon as Roe became the law of the land, they began to provide safe, now legal abortion care.
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